Hollywood Park’s new turf course certainly agreed with Heavenly Ransom.
Making her first appearance in a graded stakes on opening day in Inglewood, the 4-year-old Red Ransom filly responded with an impressive victory in the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap.
Purchased for a bargain $22,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September sale by trainer Ray Bell for owners Mr. and Mrs. Vicken Meguerditchian, Heavenly Ransom, the 5-2 second choice, won for the fifth time in six starts in her Hollywood Park debut.
Last in the field of six early under regular rider Jon Court, Heavenly Ransom circled the field and went on to win by three-quarters of a length over 3-1 third choice Ticker Tape in the Grade III.
Heavenly Ransom completed the mile in a stakes record 1:33.14 over a course that hadn’t seen action since last July 17. Grass racing was canceled during the fall meet late last year when track management wasn’t satisfied with the condition of the layout. The new course, which is obviously fast and firm, consists of a type of Bermuda grass that is also used at Del Mar.
A much-troubled fifth in her lone loss on the Santa Anita grass Jan. 8, Heavenly Ransom was kept in the clear Wednesday as she changed tactics from her last win. She had led virtually throughout when winning an optional claimer March 15 in Arcadia.
“She’s a lovely filly,” said Bell, who purchased Heavenly Ransom partly because she was a half sister to Capitano, a horse with whom he had some success for the same owners.
“Every time she runs, I look at the [Daily Racing] Form and say this is a tough race, but she came through again. I didn’t expect her to be last, but she really kicked strong. She is obviously getting better and better with every race.”
Beautyandthebeast, the 8-5 favorite, finished fourth for trainer Neil Drysdale and jockey Victor Espinoza, who had teamed to win the first turf race of the meet with Corey County three races earlier.
Corey County, a 3-year-old son of High Yield, was one of three victories on the card for Espinoza, who also took the $63,000 Cougar II Stakes with heavily favored Melanyhasthepapers and the eighth with Remembering Star.
D.G. Van Clief said he would retire from his positions as commissioner and chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. and president of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. by the end of the year.
A founding chairman of the NTRA, Van Clief, 57, became the commissioner and chief executive of the association when Tim Smith retired in 2004 and has been with the Breeders’ Cup since its inception in 1982. He was appointed president of the Breeders’ Cup in 1996.